Elspeth of Nottingham

Feet together, arms outstretched and head down. I can see you.

You tiny things so far below. Deep in worries, hurries, hopes and fears, frustration, guilt and doubt.

Your grief… I am here now: for you. Not for long, never long enough because the pain always comes. It possesses me. Yes, scrawny little me with my greasy hair and bare feet in the rain. The pain is bigger but can always squeeze itself right in till my soul freezes, broken.

I see you. You, yes, you mister person, rushing along the street down there. I give you tranquillity and the knowledge that you can race through your days and nights if you feel the need, but you don’t have to. Know this and be blessed.

And you, lady, you look sick … and tired: furtive. There’s nothing to fear. Don’t worry; nothing matters. Your pain will go and be forgotten. You will go on and on. Bless you.

And who are you who dithers near the crossing? It’s OK, cross. I will guide you, keep you safe among the hurtling traffic: there, see? trust me.

Hello, person dragging your child. Peace to you; no matter what happens, let the child feel safe, loved and respected and you won’t go far wrong. That’s what I give you, the knowledge underlying the complexity of life. The truth is always simple. Keep hold of that and let nothing distract you.

Another … oh, I know you by the way you walk. You’re the woman, the poet who goes round schools inspiring pupils and teachers alike. There’s little I can give you because you are a searcher and a giver; you know so much already. I give you my respect. We are on the same side.

Oh … voices behind me. Here they come.

“Elspeth, step back. It’s windy and you could fall.” That’s Judy talking. She’s a sergeant and usually has Ben, the new constable, with her.

I know what they will have been saying as they raced up the stairs. How I can climb anything; how I stop taking my medication as soon as I’m off section and discharged from hospital. How, nearly every week, I can be found at the top of high buildings, spreading blessings.

I turn and step off the parapet. It’s time; the pain is coming, but I can’t do my job when I’m taking antipsychotics; I just can’t. They stop the music and birdsong of healing which flows through me. Oh, how it pours out when I give in to it! No one understands anything about my brief windows of divine grace: they can’t and never will. I love them and always yield to their sincerity when the demons race in.

“Well done, Elspeth. Let’s get you to the acute unit; you’ll be safe there.” Judy takes my hand.

She’s full of compassion and lets me hug her when I need to. Judy’s always calm, gentle and kind, but then I bless her every time we meet.

©Gary Bonn, 2019

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